What is it about this season that makes me anxious, yet hopeful? Is it that the summer has come to an end? Is it that the earth is about to experience a time of death? Yet, there is a crisp anticipation in the air as well. I feel fear, frailty, and hope – all at the same time. Do you?
In both our texts and our experiences this week, we instantly see the fear and frailty. For Jews, at this holy time of Sukkot, we spend time in a fragile hut called a sukkah. We build the structure according to Biblical instruction in order to feel exposed to the elements in a temporary, make-shift home. In certain ways, we feel very vulnerable in it.
We, also, sense great anxiety and even fear with Moses at the beginning of our verses. The people had strayed. God seemed distant. And the road ahead was perilous. Look, too, at the other verses we read, at the plight of the people in Ezekiel’s tale. At the onset of the war of Gog and Magog, Israel must have felt considerable fear at the prospect of total defeat.
Yet, in all these experiences, as well as those in our own lives, there’s a Force above and beyond the fear and the near-despair that speaks to us with an assurance that all will be okay.
Even though (or, perhaps, because) the “roof” of the sukkah is open through its branches and leaves to the sky and all else that might scare us from the outside, we somehow feel a sense of comfort and peace and security while being in its space.
Moses pursues God out of his profound anxiety, wanting to be assured of continuing Divine support. What deep comfort he must have felt when he heard these words: “My Presence will go with you, and I will give you rest.”
Like us, though, Moses wants to know more. He wants to be shown the Divine essence – who God is. So, God places him in the cleft of a rock, a sukkah of sorts. Like us, Moses cannot see God’s face. Yet, he sees, as we might sense in our own sukkah, that God’s true essence can best be understood in the Divine nature to be “merciful, slow to anger, gracious and abundant in loving kindness and truth,” forgiving yet just. This revelation provides an even deeper comfort.
Looking ahead, we, also, have an abiding hope that God will defeat Gog And Magog, the archetypal forces of evil in Ezekiel’s tale that always create a deep fear and anxiety within us. On that day, God’s “greatness” and “holiness” will be “recognized in the eyes of many nations,” and, we pray, there may be enduring peace in the world.
I feel a far greater sense of peace having studied and written about these words. I hope, in the reading of them, you do, too.